The first thing you have to figure out is who owns the house?
If Dad had a will, and he did not specify an individual to whom he was giving the house, then most courts will deem it split 25/25/25/25 between the siblings. The siblings may petition the court to have exactly one person own it, but only if that person compensates the other three by giving up other valuable items in the estate.
At the time they all agreed that the oldest brother could have the house
Did they file this with the court? Did the court approve? If not, then the oldest brother is not the owner of the house, it is still owned by "the estate" and thus, jointly by all four.
Someone else asked about who the executor is. The court will have appointed one. Only one. All four will not be splitting executor duties. This executor is charged with distributing the estate as Dad would have wanted it. Not "according to which child is in the greatest financial need", unless you can demonstrate, through a history of Dad's actions, that he usually did things that way.
The executor may recommend to the court that "person C should take title". If big brother has already gotten his name on the title, the court may very well order that the title be transferred to whoever has now been designated. The court will want to see either financial compensation from Person C to the other three, or a written agreement to something alternative - such as "no immediate compensation. When Person C sells the house, which must be accomplished in six months, proceeds will be distributed so as to equalize each person's portion." Again, variations can be accepted.
If the house still belongs to the estate (which I suspect is true), then all expenses related to the house are subtracted from the estate. Your travel to the house is an expense that comes from the estate, so it's shared between the four parties. The court will evaluate significant expenses and decide whether they are legit. Yours sounds legit. In the future, I'd fly to the nearest city, rent a car, and bill it to the estate (you'll pay for it up front, but get reimbursed when the estate is settled).
As you would with anything that is pending legal action, you must diligently keep records of your costs to travel, the materials you put into repairing the house, etc, since you will be asking someone else to compensate you. And, you're probably already aware that the court will side with you more readily if you engage with as many other siblings as are being receptive, that the repairs were required and they knew and pre-authorized your trip.
Unless Dad would have said otherwise, the three siblings are under no obligation, legally, ethically, familialy or financially, to support the badly-behaved brother. His action of moving into the house before the court allowed already puts him in contempt of court. Most courts would forgive such an infraction, as long as his future behavior relative to the courts is on the up and up.
Given that the house is fully paid for, when it sells, an equal amount will go to each sibling. Older financially-troubled brother would get his share, but of course, he'll use much of it bailing himself out of debt. If his debt is higher than the amount he'll get from the house, the court can send him a bill, and the matter won't close until there's a written payment agreement from the brother to the other siblings. He won't be able to pay it, probably, but now that it's part of a legal proceeding, the "unpaid debt" becomes a tax deduction for the remaining siblings.
The older brother claiming the stolen inheritance will find no ear in the court. He is, in effect, accusing the legal system of participating in theft, which would likely garner him another contempt ruling. At this stage of the game, most family courts would observe this person's behavior and be willing to negate their opinion in the proceeding...assuming the other three aren't as bad.
If the siblings absolutely cannot come to agreements, they should petition the court for a ruling. After 5 minutes of arguments (which may be handled by paper or phone), the judge will most likely order an arbitrator to step in, who will be paid by the estate. Whatever ruling the arbitrator recommends, the judge is likely to agree, make it law, and close the case. And there will be nobody "owning" that house. Wait - I see that you wrote that the court has already said if it's not settled soon, the court will force a sale. Good for the court. Good for you, all you have to do is sit back and watch.
It will make a difference if there are other assets, too - the estate is considered to be all assets taken as a single dollar value.
Nothing you've said has indicated that this is a complex estate, and in such cases, closure is normal in 3-6 months. Two years is probably setting a record in the court, and putting all the siblings in a highly visible position in that family law court...and if someone, ten years from now, is sued for a domestic issue, this will be held against them. Get this case closed...for everybody's future, this is more important when whether the house stays in the family or whatever it is that they're arguing about.
With this proposed 25% share I'm sure it will come down to my wife and her sister to cover all costs...
I doubt it. My wife is going through some estate stuff right now, and so far, the court has allowed any expense incurred by any sibling to become an expense to the estate. Get this cleared up with your court, or at least spend on an hour with an estate attorney to determine how it's handled in your area.
Your wife and her sis may spend in cash up front, but if they submit adequate documentation to the court, then the court will adjust the payout to each sibling appropriately.
The one who moved to Idaho hasn't....(gone back for this things)
Give him a choice: abandon his stuff, go get it himself, or one of the siblings will engage a professional packer and shipper to pack and ship - and the brother will have this amount of money deducted from his proceeds when the house is sold.
Check with the court also on this - after some time with stuff left in a house that's not his, it's possible to get brother's stuff declared legally abandoned, and then the sibs can do what they wish with it. My soft heart tells me I'd ship what appears to have sentimental value and yard-sale the rest to pay for the shipping.
Mom is getting involved
Tell her "thanks for trying to help, but it's between us and the court. We'll let you know if the court has asked for your participation."
...point out to my wife...afford to keep the house...
Did I miss something? Did you keep the most important aspect of the dispute for last?
It's hard to lose a parent. The courts understand nostalgia, but unless the house was built bit-by-bit by the hands of the parent who died, it's just a purchased item. Cherished pieces of art, furniture, kids' finger-painting from grade school, the courts will generally see through to letting people keep. But unless dad was good with his money, the house represents the largest dollar value in the estate, and the court will insist that it be treated exactly that way.
If your wife wants the house, the court will probably allow it, but only by having her purchase it from the other three siblings. The rest of the costs you indicated are true enough, but unless she's willing to sacrifice a large chunk of your life's savings, it's going to require a mortgage - and you're going to have to qualify for it, too. And...if you're not going to live in it, the qualification criteria are much higher, and if it's 17 hours away, the criteria get even worse, and the interest rate is higher on "non owner occupied" homes, and because it's not your principle residence, the interest on that mortgage is not deductible. Expect some of these factors to get worse if you cannot demonstrate that you have successful past history of being an absentee landlord.
I'd say a few sessions with a therapist would help - the question being, why is she so attached to the house? Unresolved problems with Dad, and the house is a tangible way of believing they might still be resolved? Just a thought...